Lighting the Way Beyond the Cities

Electrification, or the build-out of electric power distribution systems in the U.S., the U.K. and most now-developed countries starting in the mid-1880s, successfully brought reliable electricity to most major U.S. cities by 1950. 

There was a consensus at the time, however, that extending the same luxury to rural Americans would be difficult and prohibitively expensive – and could only be achieved through a change in public policy. Despite opposition, government programs such as the Rural Electrification Act and Tennessee Valley Authority were created to provide the low-interest capital and administrative organization required to extend the electric power grid to all of America.

Rural electrification – which included both traditional carbon-based power and cleaner hydropower that leveraged the abundant rivers in the Southeast – proved to be a significant economic boost to the U.S. during the Great Depression.

The situation in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia is similar to what was in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th Century: energy grid development has created urban centers of employment, education and vital medical and social services. But government-owned power companies, often saddled with debt from other projects, can’t finance the infrastructure to electrify rural areas – or even replace carbon-based fuels used for cooking and heating with cleaner alternatives.

Thankfully, the cost and infrastructure required to extend electricity to rural populations has come down just as clean-energy technology has expanded to make carbon-free rural electrification a distinct possibility. 

The result is a claim that would have sounded outrageous just several years ago: Sub-Saharan Africa and rural Asia can use off-grid, mini-grid and other nontraditional solutions to lead the world in clean-energy generation.

The secret, of course, is renewables, including wind, hydro and especially solar, as a legitimate large-scale alternative to coal and carbon-based fuels.

And companies like CSDR International are using HCPV solar technology to light and connect all parts of the world – from the most populous cities to the remotest rural areas – in the cleanest, most earth-friendly way possible.

Leslie Gomez